Monday, September 04, 2017

The Great American Eclipse of 2017


OK, there it is. Done.

Except it wasn't quite that easy. Driving 1000 miles isn't as easy for me as it used to be. I spent a night in Grand Junction, Colorado both directions. There's a lot of nice scenery along the way and there was very little traffic on the way up there. I was in Riverton, Wyoming for the eclipse, at the home of a friend of a friend of a friend. Jana opened her home to a couple of strangers and made us feel very welcome.

Totality ends

I had semi-planned to do some sight-seeing on the way back to Phoenix but I was tired and it was still the height of tourist season at the national parks.

Wilson Arch is right next to the highway just south of Moab, Utah and it's an easy stroll up to the opening.

View of the parking area from Wilson Arch. I was going to include a picture of the view in the other direction but I'll let you climb up there and see what it looks like yourself.

Arches National Park seems to be one of those places that is jammed with people whenever there isn't 4 feet of snow on the ground. Still, I think I'll try to get in there during the "off-season" and after they finish some of their road construction.

Partial eclipse showing sunspots

Thursday, August 03, 2017

A morning hike

Most people in the Houston, Texas area prefer to mow their lawns in the morning because it's cooler then.  The relative humidity is also near 100% at that time.  Just looking at the lawn mower had sweat running down my face, so I usually mowed in late afternoon.

People also like to hike in the morning in Arizona because it's cooler.  I've never liked hiking in the morning because it's still hot then and you know it's only going to get hotter.  Much hotter.  I tried a morning hike recently, though.  I volunteered to help put up a sign in Tonto National Forest that depicted the work done to remove salt cedar, an invasive species.  We started out at 8 a.m. from the Picketpost trailhead.

I didn't take any cameras.  Not even my cell phone.  I only carried a backpack full of water.  It was a cloudless day with the high forecast to be over 105F (41C).  The leader of the group walked faster than I usually do on hikes but I didn't have any trouble keeping up on the way out.  After we were done with the sign we hiked a little further to where the salt cedar had been removed.  It was a beautiful area and I knew I'd be back to get some pictures when  the weather was cooler.  We headed back to the trailhead around 10.  It was brutal.  The sun was too high to find shade under a saguaro.  I had to slow down to keep from overheating.  All I could think about was the fact that the temperature was only going up and the only escape was my air-conditioned truck.  I guess I'm still not a morning hiker.

One afternoon a few weeks later it was a little cooler because there were some monsoon storms around.  I drove up the canyon east of Superior the check out the waterfalls and on the way back decided to hike out to the sign we had put up.

Some waterfalls east of Superior.

It was very cloudy so I still wasn't going to get any good pictures.  I mostly wanted to be sure I remembered how to get out there since we had deviated from the official trail.  When I got close to where the sign was, I heard lots of water flowing fast.

Water flowing over small dam near Picketpost Mountain

The trail to the more interesting scenery crossed this creek so I couldn't go any further.  Maybe I'll be able to get some pictures out there in the fall.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Apache Leap and a New Gadget

Apache Leap as seen from Apache Leap.

As you approach Superior, Arizona, from the west on US 60, you will see some cliffs towering above the east side of the town.
That's Apache Leap. I've hiked out to Apache Leap a few times (from the other direction). It's about 2 miles round-trip and about 500 feet (about 150 meters) in elevation change. It isn't a difficult hike if you stay on the trail. If you lose the trail you will be worn out quickly. The manzanita is thick in places and difficult to push through. The open ground is covered in calf-high grass so you can't see what you are stepping on. Since your feet will usually come down on the sides of round rocks you will be struggling to maintain balance, which is tiring. So stay on the trail if you go.

The trail is marked with cairns but sometimes they are difficult to find. This, of course, is an easy one.

Which kind of brings me to the new gadget. I've always thought that using electronics to keep track of your workouts was silly. Listen to your body. You don't need all that distracting crap. Then we were offered a deal on Fitbits through work. I thought it might be nifty to see what my heart rate does during a hike so I got one.

There was a short blurb about fitness trackers in a recent issue of Scientific American. A doctor wanted to know how accurate they were as heart rate monitors and so he compared their results to medical-grade heart monitors and concluded that they are acceptable. The article didn't get into any details about the conditions under which he tested them, though. My experience is that they can be way off if you are doing something besides sitting in a chair.

Apache Leap is 500 feet above the unofficial trailhead. Five hundred feet of elevation gain in a mile is not real steep. Normally I could walk up something like that at a slow but steady pace. I was struggling on this hike though, and was wondering what was wrong with me until I remembered that I started out about 3000 feet higher than I'm used to hiking. Anyway, I checked what the Fitbit thought my pulse was on a stretch where I was gasping for air. It said 86. No way. I felt my pulse. I didn't have a watch to count my pulse, but it felt like it was well over 120. Fitbit still insisted it was a rock-solid 86.

I have seen it make errors in the other direction, too. It has recorded that my pulse was over 140 when I was on an easy downhill section of trail. If my pulse was really as wacky as my Fitbit says, I don't think I would feel as good as I do while I'm hiking. Also, I wore a medical grade monitor for a couple of weeks not too long ago and it didn't show anything wacky, so I am confident that how I feel is a better indication of what my heart rate is than the Fitbit.

This stock tank is just before you get to the cliff of Apache Leap.

Apache Leap hasn't changed since the last time I was there. It may change soon, though. A land swap has been pushed through congress that puts the Oak Flat area in the hands of a mining company. I think it would be kind of hypocritical of me to say that's a bad thing while I surround myself with high-tech gadgets made possible in part by the copper that comes out of mines. Instead, I go hiking in that area whenever I can and take photos of whatever I come across.

Picketpost Mountain as seen from Apache Leap.

A tarantula hawk visited as I sat on a rock resting. This wasp is about 2 inches long. I hear they have a paralyzingly painful sting. I'm not going to try it myself, though.

The trail goes up the middle of this canyon. This is facing back down the canyon (Apache Leap behind me). I tried hiking up to Apache Leap on one of the ridges between canyons once. The terrain varied from difficult to impossible.

Just before I retired a lot of people asked me what I planned to do in retirement. One thing I said was that I was going to work on taking better pictures. I am working on that, but don't expect to suddenly see NG-quality photos on my blog, OK?

Thursday, June 01, 2017

A new era

I almost titled the post "Day 1". But then I would need to come up with a "Day 2" and "Day 3" and "Days 43 through 56", etc. I didn't want to get stuck doing that.

So what's new? Well, I can go hiking just about any time I want to. I don't have to look longingly out the window at passing storms; I can go play in the lightning any time. In other words, I have retired.

I have the feeling that I will miss working. People that have experienced this tell me the feeling will pass in, like, a day or two. We'll see. I had the good fortune to work at a job in which I could have a positive impact on many people's lives. I can certainly keep busy now, but what good is busy if there's no impact? If that really starts to bother me, there's always volunteer work. Even better would be to work as a consultant at the same company for a few months at a time. Work a little, play a little. Well, time will tell.

The picture above is something I rarely get a photo of. I've photographed a lot of sunsets, but this is a sunrise. Last week a guy at work said it's a tradition to get a photo of the sunrise on your first day of retirement. Sounds like a nice tradition but coming from Iggy made me wonder if it was a prank to get me out of bed an hour earlier than usual on my first day of retirement. Too bad I retired so close to the summer solstice.

The sun makes an appearance.

Now that I can create a blog post without dozing off and drooling all over the keyboard, I plan to start posting again. I've never stopped wandering around the desert. Now I can start working on bringing you up to date.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Hike to a Lime Kiln

At least that's what I think it is. I could be wrong. I don't think there's a lot of limestone out here, but there could be some, I suppose. Anyway, somebody told me about this and about where it is and I think they told me what it is but I can't find that conversation. I wish I could so I could let him know I finally made it out there and so he could confirm if it is a lime kiln.

So somebody told me about this thing and I searched for it on Google Earth and found a likely candidate and stuck a push pin in it and thought for a couple of years about how long a hike it would be to get out there. Then last Friday I decided I could reduce the hike by at least a couple of miles by wading across the Salt River instead of using the bridge. I did that once before on another hike. I wore sandals made for use in water that time. It was a little chancy going up the far bank in sandals, though, what with all the cacti and rattlers around. On Saturday morning I decide to go down to the river and see if it would be as easy to cross as I suspected.

There were only 2 horses in the area when I got to the river. The flow of water from Stewart Mountain dam is cut in October because the Salt River tubing season is over. All those rocks in the foreground would normally be under water but are exposed because the flow was dropped last week.

You can kind of tell where the water was in this photo.

I went to the place that was my first choice from crossing the river and decided that it was too wide. I didn't pay much attention to how deep it was but probably should have. I made my way over to my second choice but it took me a long time to get there because I kept stopping to take pictures of birds.

This is how birds fish.

These birds are cuter.

I don't normally take pictures of birds but I got a new lens a couple of months ago that enables me to zoom in enough to get decent pictures. That lens is not suitable for landscape photography, though, and that's the kind of photos I most like to take. So am I changing lenses while I'm out hiking? What, and get all that desert dust in my camera?!? No. I carry two cameras. I got a new camera in January and BTW it is the heaviest camera I have ever owned. I kept my old camera and put the new lens on it. The new lens, BTW, is the heaviest lens I have ever owned. So now I'm carrying 2 instruments for taking pictures and each one is heavy. Have you ever put two camera straps around your neck? Having two heavy cameras strapped to your neck can make hiking difficult for lots of reasons besides impeding breathing, though that is certainly one of the top reasons. Fortunately, I stumbled across a solution to carrying the cameras a few weeks ago. They are something called "capture clips" made by Peak Design. I put them on my backpack straps and hang the cameras there. It's a little awkward having two large heavy things on my chest but it beats being strangled.

Me with cameras attached, and a bonus Halloween decoration.

OK, so I'm looking at my second possible location for crossing the river and I think it looks a little deeper than I would like if I was to try crossing it with my hiking boots on. I've splashed through this river a few times with these boots and they do seem to be water proof, as advertised, so I decide to see if the water is too deep. I think it was about half an inch too deep. One of the most distressing feelings I know is that of water coming over the top of your shoe and down into your shoe. It's right down there with hitting your brakes and then realizing that you are on ice. It was only a few steps to get across, though, and it didn't get any deeper, so I kept going. When I got out of the water and up the other bank, it felt like the water had only seeped down to my heels and had not formed puddles in my boots. Puddles in boots is one of the few things that feels worse that water coming over the tops of your boots. I decided that since I was across, I might as well keep going.

The ground is unusually bare in this area. I think that may have something to do with the nature of the soil. There are no rocks in this soil. Every time I have come across soil without rocks in this desert, it has very few plants in it.

I got the feeling that few people visit this area these days. There were many dead trees that had not been chopped up for firewood. Also, there were few beer cans or shot gun shells.

I wandered slowly in the direction I thought I should go to get to the suspected kiln. I had a 4G signal out there and figured I could check Google Earth if I couldn't find it, but it would be more fun to wander around and see what I could see.

I felt like I should be getting close to the kiln so I decided to climb this small hill and see if I could spot it.

Almost at the hill ...

... when I look to my left and see this.

This matches descriptions of lime kilns that I've read.

At the same time that I got to the kiln, the Red Baron flew in and started doing aerial stunts. I used to see this plane frequently while hiking but haven't seem it much the past few years.

I hung out there for a while taking pictures of the kiln and of the Red Baron. I decided to climb the hill even though I had already found my destination. It was during this climb that I concluded that hiking in wet socks is a lot less fun than hiking in dry socks. The hill was actually the end of a ridge. There were cairns on the ridge and a very faint trail. I couldn't resist. I followed the trail for almost half a mile before I decided the sun was getting low enough that I should turn back.

Looking along the ridge.

As is common in this area, one of Sheriff Joe's fancy helicopters flew by. It was doing some wild maneuvers to follow the path of the river. Maybe the pilot was trying to impress the female you can see in the front seat. I wonder how many of these helicopters Maricopa County could have purchased for the cost of all of Sheriff Joe's lost lawsuits.

I don't think the trail goes anywhere but the desert is pretty.

Large rocks.

As I strolled along the top of the ridge, I thought about how I used to run through the shallow water at the beach in Texas. When your foot comes down, it pushes the water out, and you lift your foot up for the next step before the water rushes in to cover it. I wondered if I could use that technique to cross the river. It might be tricky running over a bunch of slippery boulders that you can't really see very well, though. I decided to try it and was quickly reminded of how, when one foot splashes down, the other leg gets drenched. At least I didn't get as much water in my boots. I need to find a better way to cross the river. Stilts?

Map of the hike.

Click below to see all of the pictures. I took over 200 but narrowed it down some.


Monday, March 09, 2015

Dome Mountain

A view of Dome Mountain.

There are only a couple of mountains in Bulldog Canyon OHV area that I know of that have names. Dome Mountain is one of them. (The other is Lone Mountain.) It's also the highest peak there. I've thought about climbing it for years, but not seriously, because every view I had of it made it look like it couldn't be climbed without doing some actual rock climbing. I was just wandering around in October of 2010 and got pretty close to the peak and thought I saw a route to the top, but it hadn't been easy getting as far as I did and the rest of the route looked difficult, so I continued to wimp out.

This is a view of Four Peaks from what I consider to be the halfway point. It's as far as I had gotten in 2010.

As usual, I was off work for a couple of weeks over the Christmas holiday. As is not usual, I didn't have anything but hiking planned. I was thinking about climbing Picketpost Mountain again and spending most of the two weeks gearing up to do that. I was going on long (for me) hikes with a lot of elevation gain to prepare and decided to go up to the halfway point again for the exercise. The first time I had been up there, there was a very faint trail. This time the trail was more pronounced and as I approached the halfway point, there were frequent cairns and even some white paint marks.

A cairn and a couple of paint stripes are visible in this photo.

At the halfway point.

I followed the trail up from the halfway point for a quarter mile or so, but I didn't have enough daylight, water, or snacks to go all the way to the top then. It looked like somebody had marked a trail all the way to the top, though, so I knew it could be done. I decided to concentrate on getting to the top of Dome Mountain instead of climbing Picketpost again because every time I looked at Picketpost I felt dread. Picketpost is a very steep and long hike and I wasn't looking forward to how much I would ache afterwards. I wanted perfect weather when I climbed Dome Mountain; no gloomy clouds. Perfect conditions arose on December 30.

Looking toward the Superstition Mountains from about 3/4 of the way up. There's a little haziness (pollution) in the air and it's the middle of the day, so I blame the blah-ness of the photo on that.

You can see how I really slowed down near the top in this plot of speed and elevation. It was steep and I was gasping for air. I was also going very slow in that area on the way down because it was steep and I didn't want to slip and land on a cholla.

The climb was uneventful except for the very nice views all around. I wandered around the top eating snacks, taking pictures, and relaxing until I was bored. The hike down was exciting as all steep descents on scree-covered rock are. My butt made unintentional contact with the ground only once.

The top of Dome Mountain.

From the halfway point back to the parking spot can be tricky. The cairns and paint are harder to follow in that direction. When I was up there on the 23rd I got off-trail and couldn't see how to get back to where I needed to be. I had to backtrack quite a ways. This is a warning to anybody else that heads up there. Come back in daylight and keep making sure you on on the correct route or you'll be stuck out there in the dark, which won't be so bad as long as you have a blanket and the mountain lion isn't looking for easy prey.

I made a couple of 360 panoramas from the top but they must be too many pixels. None of my viewing software can display them and I can't upload them. I'll put them on my Photosynth page someday.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The 2014 monsoon rains

We had a very wet summer in the Sonoran Desert. It was the seventh wettest monsoon season since records have been kept. People that have lived here for 30 years says it the most rain they've ever seen. All those storms mean that there were some great photo opportunities, and on a couple of occasions I was even in the right place at the right time, and even had my camera with me.

A storm moved in while I was in Bulldog Canyon. I thought I had heard a screaming animal out there a couple of days before and had returned to find the body (but the only body I found was a dead saguaro). I have since decided that somebody is hunting mountain lions out there.

Great clouds mean some great sunsets.

I was out in the middle of a relatively flat area south of Florence Junction when I took this. You can see dust being kicked up on the left of the photo and a column of rain on the right.

This looked really ominous. I was worried I might be trapped in mud so I hurried to pavement. Turns out the rain never got to where I had been.

I stopped to get a picture of the rain falling on the Superstition Mountains and accidentally got a lightning bolt.

There was a great sunset going on at the same time in the other direction. I kept going back and forth across the road to get pictures of both.

It looks like it's probably raining pretty hard over there.

I hung around after sunset to get some lightning pictures.

This is a normally dry wash a couple of miles east of Tortilla Flat. There were some small waterfalls there but my pictures of them weren't any good. I decided I need to get an ND filter.

Yes, all the storms were great for pictures, but there were a couple of drawbacks, too. On several occasions I gave up on taking pictures because the bugs were so bad. Mostly they were gnats but once when I was on top of Lone Mountain some termites chased me away. Termites often swarm during the monsoon rains. Thousands of winged termites leave the colony to start new colonies. They have no interest in people but when there are so many in the air at once, the can't help landing on you. After a while it's just too creepy with all those bugs in your shirt (they always seem to fall into my shirt).

Just about every day, everywhere I went, there were nice clouds. This was taken northeast of Roosevelt Lake.

The other drawback to all the rain was, of course, the humidity. I decided to get serious about losing some weight this year and was frequently climbing Lone Mountain to burn some calories. The sweat dripping off my face created my own little salty rainstorm. It was a pretty mild summer temperature wise, though. There was only about one week when it got over 110. The humidity hung around long after the storms left. It was only during the past week that it seemed to return to normal. (I noticed because my knuckles cracked and bled when I made a fist.)

Winged termites leaving the nest. Photo taken on top of Lone Mountain.

I took a lot of pictures of Four Peaks from the top of Lone Mountain during the summer.

There were more flowers than usual during the summer.

One day I thought I was going to hike out to Apache Leap, east of Superior. There were storm clouds building over the valley but I didn't think they would affect me. Fortunately, I had forgotten where the trail was and wimped out because of the humidity. A very heavy storm moved through shortly after I got back on the pavement.

Even when it din't rain, there were nice clouds around. In order to keep burning calories, I was out hiking and getting pictures several times a week.

One day I tried to drive out to White Canyon Wilderness, south of Superior. The road seemed to be badly eroded by water, but the ocotillos didn't have leaves, and the ground was dry. Seemed very strange. Couldn't get to the wilderness so I went over to the Ray mine for a look and got a picture of this storm building. It evaporated shortly after I took this.

There are horses running loose around the Salt River. I suspect they were set free there by people that couldn't afford them any more when the economy took a dive. Anyway, I see their tracks all over the place but usually only see them at the river. I was wandering around Bulldog Canyon one day, a mile from the river, and came across 3 horses. Wouldn't wild horses run away from a human? These kept an eye on me but went about their usual business.

I climbed a tall butte near canyon lake. There were nice fluffy clouds all around. From on top you can see the Superstition Mountains, Four Peaks, Saguaro Lake, Canyon Lake, and lots of other landmarks. I got a nice 360 panorama. It's on my Panoramio page.

The only waterfall I've seen since I got the ND filter is by our pool.

I've come across several things I wanted to write a blog about over the past few weeks but didn't have time with all the hiking and picture processing. Maybe I'll catch up now that the sun sets so early.